studio e architects, san diego

It's hard to imagine a less desirable site than the one Studio E Architects faced in designing Tesoro Grove Family Housing, south of San Diego. Not only did it border Interstate 5, the heavily traveled freeway that leads from Southern California to Mexico, but it was shaped like two irregular triangles and surrounded by a built context with little or no architectural character. "The way they dealt with a leftover site was very interesting," said a judge.

Principal Eric Naslund, FAIA, and his staff decided that if thousands of cars would be passing by each day, they might as well have something pleasant to look at. "We wanted to design a project that works at 65 miles per hour," he says. Bold forms and colors did the trick. The firm then carved out open space within each triangle, giving residents a sense of community and ownership. Parking was pulled to the perimeters to create a truly walkable neighborhood.

The units along the freeway face the interior of the project, and the few windows that do face outward are rated to cut down on noise. And the project's mix of colorful stucco walls and white-painted board-and-batten celebrates San Diego's dual Latino and Anglo-Saxon heritage.  

principal in charge/land planner: Eric Naslund, FAIA, Studio E Architects
project architect: Mike Burnett, Studio E Architects
developer: Jim Silverwood, Affirmed Housing Group, Escondido, Calif.
general contractor: Allgire General Contractors, Carlsbad, Calif.
landscape architects: Marty Poirier, Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects, San Diego, and Mohamed Zaki, DeLorenzo, San Diego
project size: 584 to 1,310 square feet per unit
site size: 5.9 acres
construction cost: $75 per square foot
rental price: $309 to $857 per month
units in project: 106
photographer: Jim Brady